Getting Music Off an IPod Using Mac OS X!




There are lots of Instructables out there on how to get music off of an iPod using the "view options" trick in Windows explorer.

like this one!
How to get your music back off your Ipod FREE!

Unfortunately for those of us using Macs, Finder isn't so keen on letting you see those pesky hidden files.

We have two roads diverging here...

either we:
1. Search for 20 minutes on the internets for a shady program that sucks everything off your iPod, download it, install it and then wait .... SNORE!!!


2. Use our to-be haxor skillz with Terminal to get a peek at those "hidden" files, pronto!

Step 1: Intro to Simple Unix Commands

Don't be frightened!

It won't bite!

Go to: Applications/Utilities/Terminal

and fire it up!!!

If you are familiar with simple Unix commands then, by all means, skip this step.

Terminal is a program that lets you communicate with the operating system in a different way than clicking on cute little icons on your desktop. In Terminal, we type commands to the computer and "tell" instead of "show" it what to do. Crude, maybe. Useful, hell yess. The command line makes most easy things (like organizing file directories) really difficult to do but some hard things (like copying every file from your iPod into iTunes) really easy and quick.

Lets get started...

In this instructable we will only use three commands.

They are:
cd - "change directory"
ls - "show me what's in this directory"
open - "open this file using its default program"

more can be found here if you are curious about the ooodles of other useful commands
Useful Unix Commands

try typing "ls" into the command line and see what pops up!
try typing "cd directoryname" of one of those folders to move to that directory.
try typing "cd .. " (that's a double period) in order to open the parent directory. This is like hitting the back tab in a web browser.

Consider yourself a true hacker now!

With these two commands you can roam around any computer and look at files... and directories... and... more... files...SNORE!!!!

lets get on to the good stuff

Step 2: Lets Peruse the IPod

So now lets get that music.

(Picture 1)
Open Terminal again and type "cd ~"

this command just changes the current directory to your home directory.

(Picture 2)
now we'll go a little deeper into the hard drive using the "cd .." command a couple times while listing the files using the "ls" command each time to keep looking for that iPod.

(Picture 3)
All external and internal hard disks are in the "Volumes" directory so lets get in there by typing "cd Volumes" and then listing the contents of the directory again. Your iPod's name should show up as one of the directories. Mine is called JACK'S IPOD. In order to get in all we have to do is... you guessed it type "cd "ipodname"" and we're in!!!

If your iPod's name has spaces or apostrophes like mine, it may be easier just to type the first couple letters and then hit tab. In Terminal, tab is an "auto-complete" button and guesses the correct answer. Very useful when you don't know Unix syntax.

Step 3: Now Lets Find That Music!

Here comes the fun part! At this point you should be inside the iPod. If you haven't already, list the files in the iPod directory and for fun, open up the iPod in Finder as well. Notice anything funny?

There's an extra file in there that Finder won't let you see!

it's called iPod_Control... kind of ironic, no?

and this is where your music lies.

(Picture 7)
Lets explore! Type "cd iPod_Control" and then "ls"

"Music" should be one of the directories listed so lets try there. Type "cd Music" and then "ls"

At this point (depending on how much music you have) you should see a lot of files pop up F00, F01, F02 ... and so on. These files contain all of your iPod's music! and are what we've been looking for.

Feelin' kinda sneaky huh?

Step 4: Transferring the Music to ITunes

Now what? If you were industrious you went into the folders and saw a bunch of .mp3 .mp4 .m4a files with random four letter capital names. That's your music alright but it's sorted and categorized in a funny iPod manner which I don't understand.

No worries!!! It doesn't matter anyway because when we open the files it automatically copies the song to iTunes Library and puts it in the correct format*!

  • Unless its a double, then it remains as the goofy 4 letters sometimes

Here's where out magical "open" command comes in along with some other cool characters called "wildcards."

I'll spare an explanation of wildcards except for that the * character means "everything" to the computer. So instead of individually opening every file in every F## file I can just tell the computer to open all files in all F## files!

-First, make sure you have enough time to copy all music. Depending on how much this could take a VERY long time.
-Second, beware that this will copy ALL MUSIC from the iPod even if you already have copies of some of the songs so prepare to delete some doubles.
-Third, make sure you are in the "Music" directory when you type these commands in. If you're in an F## file just type "cd .."

Type "open F*/*"

which in computer speak means "open every file in every directory starting with F" which is exactly what we want!

Now watch in satisfaction as every music file on your iPod is copied to your iTunes Library!

Step 5: You're Done!!!

Now that probably took you longer than expected but hey don't you feel a little smarter too!

Happy iPod copying!

Please Note: I do not condone stealing music, please pay for your music.



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26 Discussions


1 year ago

Was really hoping this would work but it seemed to only pull about 100-200 songs from an old iPod that has over 5000 songs (the macbook the music was from crashed and the HD is toast). Any idea why the open cmd might miss some files or are there some file types it would just skip?


9 years ago on Step 5

When im CDing to my ipod directory....
cd *********** iPod

after this, it jsut does this


any ideaS?

1 reply

Reply 1 year ago

If your device's name has a space, i.e. liplol's iPod, you'll need to add quotations around it, so "liplol's iPod"


2 years ago

I tried this the first time and it worked like a charm. However prior to coming across this article, I have already opened and used Senuti, iExplorer and AnyTrans. When I found this article, I followed your instructions and was working perfectly. During the transfer, I quit aforementioned apps but somehow it interfered with the transfer. The transfer stopped before all songs were transferred. When I tried using Terminal again, it wouldn't find the iPhone anymore. I tried a different iPhone and still wouldn't find. But it finds other external drives. Is this a one-time thing? Or did Mac detect what I was trying to do and somehow prevented me from doing it again? Thoughts, please???


3 years ago

Thanks so much, this was super easy to do! I hate that they make it so hard to get your music off of your iPod.


3 years ago

The free iPod Data Transfer programs seem all dead and haven't updated for years. For music transfer between iOS device and Mac, i recommend to follow this guide, which is a quite smart solution:

Step by step tutorial: Transfer Music from iOS Device to Mac


3 years ago

Love it , this worked great and was super easy. Thanks!!


3 years ago on Step 5

This is amazing!!! Thank you! I looked for nearly an hour trying to find an open sourced app that would work but this does the exact same thing and its free!!


7 years ago on Introduction

My harddrive failed during the Christmas break. Tech services at the school was able to pull off my documents folder, but everything else was gone. This tutorial saved a music library I've been building half my life. You, sir, deserve a medal.


7 years ago on Introduction

Excellent little tutorial there mate..... very easy to understand. No problems whatsoever following this and unlocking my music. Have recently returned from travelling/living abroad and it's nice to be able to transfer all the music i've collected onto my new Mac.

Am a bit of a novice when it comes to computers so nice to learn something too :)


Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

"cd" is actually a shortcut for "cd ~" so you should just return to your home directory. To change from your home directory to a higher level you need to type "cd .." (That's "cd space period period" if it's hard to see). You can also type "cd /" which will take you all the way to the base of your file directory where the "Volumes" folder lies.


10 years ago on Introduction

Helpful instructable! I personally have used Tansee iPod Transfer to help me transfer all music and videos from iPod back to my computer and iTunes. Luckily, it works great. Here is step-by-step guide.

cool. our computer just got a harddrive crash(due to my brother looking up innapropriate images) and i wanted to get the music back onto my computer without downloading an extra piece of software. darn though i have a thousand songs and 16gigs of video. well


10 years ago on Introduction

Nicely done. I myself don't own a Mac, but if I ever get one or need to use a Mac, I'll use this method. +5/5 stars.


10 years ago on Introduction

I hate to rain on this parade, but this is not a fantastic way to do this. So heres my constructive criticism :) In Finder you can show hidden files. In Terminal type: defaults write AppleShowAllFiles TRUE (if you want to hide the files again, just use FALSE instead of TRUE) Then browse your ipod thru finder. Unfortunately due to the way the iPod file stucture is your music is all scrambled and renamed funny. Its much easier and cleaner to use Senuti to do this on OSX.